Emphasizing Self Awareness and Reflection on National Leadership Day

Why is leadership an important skill to teach children?

By Michal Lloyd

National Leadership Day is February 20th, 2023. Everyone is touting leadership’s importance to the point that we are sick of hearing about it. But the truth is leadership skills serve us all well. Learning to think critically and be self-motivated is a gift that is the best prevention against life’s storms and challenges. 

Leadership is an essential skill for success in school and staying drug-free.  Teaching kids these skills help children be confident, understand the needs of others, and listen to their points of view with empathy. Parents give their children an extra layer of protection when they help them to recognize their values and beliefs rather than simply telling them how to behave. “Mom says no.” isn’t always going to be enough. 

As parents, it is easy to want to solve our children’s problems; however, this can lead to further difficulties. Consider how children learn to speak. They babble at first. As they discover more words, they get rewarded with smiles and claps. You can’t speak for them. They have to bump around and maneuver those hard words alone. All that babble and struggle amounted to speech. So the answer is you must teach them internal controls.

Instead of providing solutions (giving a kid a fish), we can teach our children to develop an internal compass by assisting them in understanding their beliefs. (Or, in other words, teaching them how to fish.) You can teach them to identify their values and create their symbolic book of wisdom that helps guide life’s future  decisions. By reminding our kids that they have access to these internal resources, we can encourage them to act on their values even when faced with difficult choices, such as whether to do something that doesn’t align with their values, like misusing drugs.

We can help build this internal navigation system by teaching our kids to listen closely to the clues their bodies and minds send them daily. Do they feel best when they spend time outside? Are they more productive if they work in silence? We can help them pay attention to these signals to learn how to navigate the world around them. 

All of us — parents included —also need to be aware of the sneaky negative chatter that can derail our lives. You can help your kids identify that internal bully and stop it. We can find ways to help them reframe their thoughts into something more positive or productive.

In today’s world full of social media and non-stop news, it is more important than ever that we help our kids learn how to disconnect from what is constantly thrown at them. It requires extra effort but will be worth it when they can trust their abilities rather than being pulled off course by every shiny new thing.

Helping our children understand themselves and learn how to work within their environments gives them fundamental life skills. Here are some helpful hints to aid you in your parenting. 

10 Ways to Teach Your Children About Honoring Their Values

1. Model the behavior you want them to emulate

2. Have conversations with your children about values and beliefs

3. Tell stories that illustrate important lessons

4. Encourage them to question their values and beliefs

5. Help children understand different cultures, religions, and backgrounds

6. Teach them empathy by having compassion for others

7. Emphasize kindness in all interactions

8. Establish rules of respect within the family

9. Encourage volunteer activities.  

10. Take advantage of teachable moments

Youth can lead in many ways. Participation in a substance use prevention coalition is a great way for your child to continue building leadership skills.  Find a substance use prevention coalition near you.